Many people in financial services sales positions last year saw compensation declines ranging from about 10% to more than 30% because of the poor stock market, says a new survey by Kasina, a New York-based strategy and consulting firm for the financial industry.

The people hurt the most were wholesaler managers, who saw compensation declines of between 22.3% and 32.7%, the survey says. In-the-field wholesalers saw declines of 20.7% in 2008 compared with 2007. National sales managers saw a dip of 13.5%. These declines were driven by suppressed cash flows that pushed variable compensation down, particularly in the fourth quarter of 2008.

Internal and hybrid wholesalers were mostly insulated from these declines. The silver lining is that firms estimate that 2009 will see modest increases in total compensation for most roles, but not enough to get back to 2007 levels.

Wholesalers typically sell financial services products to registered independent advisors, brokers-dealers and wirehouses.

According to Kasina, which surveyed 18 leading asset manager and mutual fund firms for the study, the firms must keep top people well compensated even if that means eliminating lower positions, pay incentives for productive activities that build long-range results not just immediate sales, and reward employees who increase corporate profitability in other ways, such as reducing travel expenses or making other budget cuts.